Mediterranean Diet: Eating on a Budget
It's hard to eat healthy on a budget, but it's not impossible! Eating Mediterranean-style means you're already eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Here are just 7 ways to make the Mediterranean diet (budget Mediterranean diet) work with your budget.
Overview of the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is generally considered healthy, thanks to its emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. People who follow it also tend to have a low incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers (Mediterranean diet cancer).
While it's true that your wallet can take a hit when you start following it (and you do have to be disciplined about sticking with it), many people say that eating according to its guidelines is worth it because you feel better as you lose weight.
If you're thinking about following it but don't want to break your budget, consider these tips for sticking with an affordable diet version.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
- The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest dietary patterns in the world due to its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory content.
- Studies have shown an inverse relationship between the Mediterranean diet and chronic diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes, etc.) and cancer.
NB: The American Heart Association notes that the Mediterranean diet is high in calories from fat. Although more than half of calories from fat come from monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, the diet may not be appropriate for people who need to reduce their fat intake.
Eating the Mediterranean on a Budget
In many ways, Mediterranean eating is an ideal way of life. It focuses on whole foods, grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and fish plus olive oil is enjoyed in nearly every meal.
That's what makes it a much healthier choice than other popular diets like low-carb (which emphasizes high amounts of animal proteins) or paleo (which cuts out all processed foods), and low sugar mediterranean diet.
And with prices at restaurants escalating steadily across America as more people dine out instead of cooking at home, eating well shouldn't be expensive but it often is. Here are some tips to help you put together delicious meals without breaking your budget.
Budget-Friendly Tips to Shop the Mediterranean Way
If you're following a Mediterranean diet, you'll see weight loss benefits and lower your heart disease and cancer risk.
One of the most popular ways people try to save money is by cooking at home more often. However, grocery shopping for ingredients for Greek dishes like spanakopita (spinach pie) or dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) can get expensive quickly.
The good news? There are plenty of delicious food items that can be incorporated into your diet without impacting your budget. These clean foods have been shown repeatedly as some of nature's best medicine for improving heart health and decreasing cancer risk.
7 Ways to Incorporate the Mediterranean Diet into Your Budget
1. Seafood in the Mediterranean Diet
Over most of its history, eating fish and seafood in Mediterranean cuisine was inexpensive because it didn't have to be shipped very far. In fact, according to Smithsonian Magazine, before World War II, 90 percent of Italy's fish and seafood came from local waters.
While that hasn't changed today, modern economics can make seafood more expensive than other protein sources. To eat like our ancestors on a budget, you'll want to look for native or at least popular options in your area.
2. Poultry in the Mediterranean Diet
While meat consumption is traditionally lower in Mediterranean countries, poultry consumption is higher than beef and pork consumption in many of these places.
Poultry, which can be bought at lower prices than other meats, is often used in home cooking and served at restaurants specializing in Mediterranean cuisine. Chicken and turkey breast are especially popular because they have less fat but still provide enough protein for our bodies.
You'll also want to stick with free-range chicken or turkey for a healthier option over conventional poultry. Eggs are also an affordable protein source that comes from chickens. Some argue that eggs make for a complete protein because they contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs to build muscle proteins.
3. Red Meat in the Mediterranean Diet
Eating meat on a Mediterranean diet is healthy, but it can get expensive. Finding red meat substitutes is an efficient way to cut costs and still stick with your lifestyle.
So what's one of your options? Try using legumes! Instead of buying lean cuts of beef, try substituting garbanzo beans or lentils as your protein source. It may sound odd at first, but legumes have protein and fibre and they're much cheaper than beef!
Another smart substitution: replace pork chops with ground turkey breast. Also called white meats (compared to beef and chicken), turkey is low in fat and calories while still providing plenty of flavor.
4. Dairy Products in the Mediterranean Diet
There are several health benefits of consuming dairy products in your diet. Calcium, vitamin D, and protein are all key nutrients found in dairy that can help prevent osteoporosis and promote healthy teeth and bones.
Calcium has been shown to build strong teeth and bones when consumed adequately. Dairy products also have potassium which is essential for lowering blood pressure levels.
Protein is an important nutrient that helps people maintain their muscle mass when losing weight. However, some studies show that too much protein can lead to higher uric acid levels in your blood; high uric acid levels risk gout attacks and kidney problems over time.
5. Fresh Fruits & Vegetables in the Mediterranean Diet
Did you know that fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy Mediterranean Diet? Most people are familiar with olive oil, yogurt, nuts, fish, and seafood as staples of the diet.
The key is eating this food in moderate amounts. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be eaten in abundance for their nutritional value. Produce is a must if you want to eat well while staying within your budget.
6. Other Foods and Special Treats in the Mediterranean Diet
When you don't have fish, you might consider making other substitutions. Eggs are always a good choice for breakfast or lunch. You can replace meat with beans as well.
Meat doesn't have to be expensive for you to eat well; there are many inexpensive options if you know where to look. And salads are almost always good; they can be full of veggies and make an easy lunch or dinner.
7. Soups, Sandwiches, Pasta Dishes, & Salads
Making your meals from scratch will almost always be cheaper than buying prepared foods at home. Soups are a great example; you can make big batches and freeze individual portions for easy lunches and dinners.
Eating healthily isn't as expensive as it seems. You can enjoy tasty and nutritious food by avoiding packaged foods while keeping your wallet full. So go ahead and make good choices; you'll feel better, look better, and live longer!